Get ready to see Reading Operatic Society’s take of Godspell in Henley

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Reading Operatic Godspell
The cast of Reading Operatic's new show, Godspell Picture: Phil Creighton

IT’S BEEN a Broadway hit twice over, but now it’s coming to Henley and is currently being cooked up in Earley.

Reading Operatic Society is currently preparing for its new production of Godspell, a 1971 musical packed with familiar stories and familiar tunes.

It used Matthew’s Gospel in the Bible as its starting point, retelling parables and the final days of Jesus’ earthly life in a fusion of music and a traditional passion play, while robed in contemporary viewpoints.

Chris Reddington has the dual role of Judas and John The Baptist.

“Judas is an interesting character. When you think of the Bible, you think of things like Jesus Christ Superstar and others, well, he’s a bad guy. But in Godspell, it’s interesting how he’s kind of portrayed. There’s this slight twist on him as a character and we’ve done a twist in the show as well.

“You get to understand his emotional side, so when it comes to the point where he’s got to make that betrayal, it’s not about Jesus saying, come on, go and do it. Judas is kind of having to go through that realisation of what he’s going to do.

“it’s a part you don’t hear a lot of interestingly.”

Chris starts Godspell as John The Baptist “who’s there to kind of coax the troops and bring everyone to Jesus”.

Reading Operatic Society has been hard at work rehearsing the play for months, from its meeting back of Earley St Peter’s Church Hall.

Godspell is quite an interesting musical as it is one where the whole cast are on stage for the entire show: there’s no hiding place.

Godspell Reading Operatic Society
Ajani Cabey as Jesus and Chris Reddington as Judas in Reading Operatic Society’s forthcoming production of Godspell Picture: Phil Creighton

“We’ve got a really great team behind us,” Chris says. “And it’s quite an ambitious show: Godspell is, in its own right, an ambitious show. It’s this kind of funky, crazy kind of musical. We’ve got loads of different elements to it.

“We reflect that in the acting because it’s quite improvised. We reflect that in the singing as well with different vocal styles.

“It’s really intense as a performer to be on stage all that time yet, because not just when you’re kind of on stage speaking the lines, you’ve got to be reacting to everything else that’s going on as well.”

With the source material being 2,000 years old and the original musical coming up to 50 years old, isn’t it a little old hat? Chris doesn’t think so.

“It’s actually about seeing this group of people come together to form this group, to form this community,” he says. “It’s, it’s less about the story of Jesus. I mean, obviously the underlying text, but it’s about this group coming together, supporting him on his mission and helping him do what he needs to do.

“I think what you get across in terms of the importance of the group and coming together what we need right now as a society, I think it’s really important. And I think that’s a timeless piece.”

This isn’t Chris’ experience with Reading Ops as they are affectionately known, he appeared in My Fair Lady, Annie and Jesus Christ Superstar. It’s all a far cry from his day job as an engineer for a tech company.

He fell into the society from his music – he’s also pianist, played the violin and has also been a keen singer. You might have seen him in the Witt Morgan Chorus.

“I just wanted to try something a bit different,” he says of his decision to join Reading Ops. “It’s like a second family. It’s not just about the singing and acting, it’s all the friends you make.”

Godspell will be performed at the Kenton Theatre in Henley from Thursday, September 19 to Saturday, September 21. For more details, or to order tickets, log on to www.readingops.co.uk

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